By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
The first day in June is the official first day of winter but if you're like me you will already have electric blanket on the bed, the puffer jacket close to hand, and the fire on most nights. Hopefully, you will also have changed your diet and are enjoying meals which heat you up on the inside.
Soup is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most comforting food you can enjoy over winter. A pot will last for days and it just gets better with each day it is served. And even though you can buy a reasonable tasting soup from the shops, it is still cheaper to make your own. In term of nourishment there is no contest: A homemade soup wins hands down.
A good soup has one essential ingredient and that is a good stock. Chicken stock is probably the universal best seller of stocks, used in lamb, chicken and vegetable soups but I quite like making a rich turkey stock, which is something you can't buy (yet). A decent store-bought stock will set you back between $28 and $32 if you want to make about 2 litres which is quite an outlay compared to making it yourself.
USE A GOOD STOCK
You can buy 2 huge turkey drumsticks for about $5 which cooked up slowly with an onion, the tops of 2 leeks, carrot, bay leaves, and seasoning will make about 3 litres of extremely good quality stock for about $9.00. Compared to buying the same amount of a similar quality chicken stock is a saving of over 300%. What I like about using the drumsticks is that you get a whole pile of cooked meat to throw in the soup and any extra meat mixed up with cooked rice and vegetables makes a nice meal for the dog which is another saving. Remember to take off the skin before cooking otherwise it will be very greasy. You may also need a little saw to cut them in half to fit in the pot! Otherwise use chicken carcasses, beef bones and vegetables to make your own homemade stock.
Please note A good stock is never from a stock cube.
NO PRESSURE TO BUY
I may have mentioned this before but if you don't have one yet, you'll certainly get your money back if you buy a pressure cooker at the start of the season. An electric pressure cooker makes stock in a fraction of the time a conventional pot on the stove takes and your home will be free from the smell of boiling bones. Once you've made the stock you can use the cooker to make soup, stews, meat loaf, curries, rice, beetroot and pretty much anything else.
USE AT LEAST 3 VEGETABLES
You knew this was coming, didn't you? Other than stock, a good soup needs more vegetables than any other ingredient. It's peasant food of old and back in the old days all peasants could afford was vegetables. Too much meat and the soup will turn into a stringy stew and won't keep so long. Start with a base of onion or leek, flavour with garlic, celery, herbs and spices and what else you add is up to you. Plant based protein from lentils and beans are also fantastic in a hearty winter soup.
Anything goes - vegetables add texture, colour and nutritional goodness.
TEXTURE AND TEMPERATURE
There are very few rules when it comes to soups, it comes down to personal preference, and sometimes the temperature outside. Thick and chunky offers great comfort in winter, thin clear soups are popular in hot tropical climates, and blended thick soups make a nice starter for a winter's dinner party.
THICKEN WITH STARCH
If you want your soup to be a little thick it will need some starchy vegetables. Starchy potatoes like the King Edward or Russet Burbank work well as will sweet potato. The starch in the potato will breakdown and thicken the soup.
ACID BEFORE SEASONING
Not as scary as it sounds, I am not talking hydrochloric acid! A little vinegar or lemon juice always enhances the flavour of a good pot of soup. Add this before you start to season, and you won't be so reliant on salt. The sour flavour helps to round off the flavour.
You will probably have to season your soup with salt but exercise caution particularly if you are using packaged stocks. Taste it first and add the seasoning a bit at a time. The recommended daily intake of salt is the equivalent to about 1 tsp a day - If the pot of soup you have made is enough for 8 people a teaspoon of salt is reasonable.